For the past few years Vivendi boss Jean-Bernard Levy has gone on record as saying he is interested in buying out Vodafone’s 44% stake in their French mobile joint venture, SFR. Indeed at the start of this year CommsUpdate reported that the UK-based firm was ‘psychologically’ preparing to sell its stake in the French cellco, amid board pressure to offload certain non-core assets to focus on acquisitions in emerging markets. Now the speculation has risen again with Jean-Bernard Levy reportedly reiterating his desire to buy out Vodafone using the proceeds of its USD5.8 billion sale of its stake NBC Universal, which was signed last year. Bloomberg cites the CEO as saying: ‘We have two possible options, one is to buy out 100% of SFR and Canal Plus, if we reach agreements with our minority partners, which are, respectively, Vodafone for SFR and Lagardere for Canal Plus … The second is to increase Vivendi’s presence even more in those parts of the world that are growing quickly.’
Vodafone’s stake in SFR is currently estimated to be worth around USD9.2 billion on the open market, but Vivendi has a right of first refusal and is unlikely to want to pay above USD8.1 billion.